Baja Bound!

Bahia de los angeles, campo gecko

In a few days, I’m headed to baja for a couple weeks because someone has to keep an eye on things 🙂 …. I entered the 101st. Airborne, jump school on April 23,1967, Fort Benning, Georgia..After that, was–well, after that. .So I like to be somewhere that I feel I earned….. You know what I’m talking about Johnnie Griffitts and  John H. Bogacki … We made it and are still going on… The only easy day was yesterday and yesterday was a …….

Weekly Lessons From the Road: A Polite Robbery

chilimac
Chili Mac

Back in the late sixties I was traveling with some friends along the coast road from Puerta Vallarta to San Blas. We had the road to ourselves and the stars were just coming out as we wound through the jungle. I had just repaired my BMW motorcycle and for once it was running well. I had hoed weeds all summer to earn it from an old man who had it setting in his barn (a story in itself). We were moving fast enough to cool us from the sweltering humidity when we came upon a tree blocking the road.

I was the first to stop and investigate. As the rest of our group came to a stop, a small group of armed men and women stepped out of the jungle and surrounded us. The leader pointed an AK-47 at me and demanded money. I was intimately familiar with this weapon as I was just out of the military. I could tell he was uncomfortable and surprised when he realized that we were all gringos.

Immediately, I took exception and told the leader that he couldn’t take all of our money as we needed to get home and, further, my girlfriend was expecting. This threw the whole group into a whispered discussion. Now, I admit I made the part up about my girlfriend but the rest was true. We had all stretched our spring break, which was designed to be a week long, into several months. Our parents (especially my girlfriend’s) and the college officials did not see the humor in our change of vacation plans.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, the leader nervously asked me how much we needed to get home. I replied that we only had a $125US between us and we needed a least a hundred to get home. I pointed sympathetically to my girlfriend. We bartered for a good hour and finally settled on us giving them $25US and cooking them dinner.

Everyone relaxed and the AKs were set aside. It was a communal affair with us sharing what we had for dinner. This being the sixties in Mexico, the women cooked while the men shared a bottle of tequila chased by macho stories. This was the birth of one of the recipes in the one-arm cook book, Chili Mac. They loved it.

The evening wore on as many of us nodded off. Our impromptu campfire died down and as silently as they stepped out to meet us, they drifted back into the jungle like sleep walking ghosts.

After moving the log I commented that it was the politest robbery I’ve ever heard of. I learned that evening that sometimes when you step into a drama and you just have to play it out. Besides, there might be a story in it.

SaveSave

Weekly Recipe From The One-Arm Cookbook: Chili Mac

Okay, here is a staple for all of us who have been adventuring in Baja over the years. This is a dish you truly can prepare while sipping a beer in one hand. We always carry a couple of pounds of macaroni and a several cans of chili just in case. And we’ve gotten so use to preparing this while setting up camp that everyone complains if we don’t! In fact, our children have been known to ask for it when we’re settled and could cook anything.

You cook this after a long day of traveling overland trying to get unlost. You finally have found the beach you’ve heard about and its getting dark. So, chili mac comes to the rescue. You can cook it in minutes while your sipping a beer and setting up camp.

I apologize in advance to my foodie friends and bloggers I follow. But when in Baja, necessity is the mother of all invention. 

Here’s all you need: a little salt, 4 cans of chili (8oz.) and a 1 pound of macaroni to serve about 5 or 6 hungry adventurers.

Chili Mac ingredients
Chili Mac Ingredients

Steps:

Boil 4 quarts of water (salt to taste) or use sea water.

Heat cans of chili – or if you want to get really gourmet, use homemade you already prepared.

Dump the 1 pound bag of macaroni into to the boiling water. Bring back to boil and stir occasionally. Mac should be ready in about 6 to 8 minutes depending of altitude.

When the mac is soft to your taste, pour the water off. If you’re on a moto you probably didn’t bring a colander so use a lid; or we’ve even been known to use a flip flop when desperate.

When the chili is warm, mix both together and enjoy.

It will replinish you and give you enough energy to finish setting up.

Tomorrow, you can go out and catch a real meal!

Chili Mac
Chili Mac – All you need is a cerveza.

We Don’t Own Things–Things Own Us! – Weekly Lessons from the Road

Ready to head out for a three month adventure in Baja.
Ready to head out for a three month adventure in Baja.

It is always the same every time I get ready for an adventure. I get so wrapped up in the planning and packing that I’m exhausted by the time I throw my leg over the motorcycle and twist the throttle. And what is craziest about all this is I always pack too much which is half the reason I’m tired in the first place. I realize it is not the effort of packing but how all that stuff weighs on the mind.

I learned from many past adventures, that, except for emergency gear, if you haven’t used it in first three days you don’t need it. So I pack it up and send it home at the first chance I get. This makes for better traveling; as packing and unpacking gear is faster and less cumbersome when setting up and breaking down camp and its just plain easier to find where I stashed something on the motorcycle. Life on the road becomes less cluttered.

So, while it is easier for me now days to get ready for an adventure, I still pack more than I need. And really, I’m down to one pair cargo pants that make into shorts, two pairs of underwear, one Jetbol to cook in–you get the picture.

I have slowly grown into to a minimalist on the road. But what I’m noticing is that this philosophy has carried over into my life off the road. After several months out, I return needing less, and more, importantly, wanting less.

To paraphrase Thoreau, we don’t own things–things own us.

Have any of you found this to be true? Or is it just me?

Who is Packing Your Parahute? – Weekly Lessons from the Road

Ready to head out anywhere!
Ready to head out anywhere!

I remember like it was yesterday stepping up to the open door of a C 130 and looking down several thousand feet as a light flashed green and my Senior Jump Master gave the command to jump. I hesitated for just a brief moment and came to the realization that I feared my Sargent much more than the drop. It was my first jump as a paratrooper.

I took the most difficult step of my life out that door. The decision to jump defined my career in the 101st Airborne. But as I felt the shock of the static line another realization came to me. Who had packed my chute? Fortunately, that person had done a good job because my chute opened and I floated safely to the ground, successful. Four more and I would have my wings.

With each jump afterwards, I continued to think about the people who had prepared my gear; people I had not met but who my life depended on. In a moment of clarity, I realized that all the training I had gone through at Fort Benning would not have mattered much if it had not been for the skill and dedication of someone who had packed my parachute. Someone, who worked namelessly behind the scenes far from that plane and that Jump Zone.

That realization made me a better soldier and a better leader and that lesson has stayed with me throughout my life. In all that we do, as adventurers, we must never forget that there is a whole cadre of people who support us on our adventure and they, like that nameless rigger, determine if we are successful or not.

Before your next adventure, I invite you to reflect on those who are packing YOUR parachute and take a moment to thank them. For without those wonderful professionals, and those understanding family and friends, we would not be able to chase the sun down dusty trails to beaches with no names.

Laying Block – Weekly Lessons from the Road

Estero Beach
Estero Beach

I have seen all types of people come and go over the years in our little community down in Playa de Estero, Chapultapec, Mexico. Many come with high expectations and leave confused and deflated. That just seems to be the way down here. For every expatriate that lands here and stays, there are more who come and abruptly leave. Actually, I have noticed this same phenomenon in the small mountain community where we live in the States.

I think it boils down to why they came in the first place. Unfortunately, many come with expectations that Baja will fix their fractured lives. Anyone who has spent much time down here knows that Baja is not very good at fixing anything—just look at the roads.

I am reminded of a neighbor I once had named, Ernie. After selling a successful masonry contracting business in SoCal, he moved to our little community in Baja with high expectations and enthusiasm. He was tired of the pace and materialism of the States and was excited to move to a slower pace—a place where he thought he could reflect and get back in touch with who he was and where he was going.

After arriving, he wasted little time throwing himself into a flurry of activity, exploring the restaurants and sightseeing around the country. He dove into an extensive remodel of his home. He was constantly on the go for about a year.

But after that first year, I began to notice a change in him. At first it was little criticisms about his Mexican neighbors. He complained about the lack of services, the disorganization and the slowness of the way of life. And as more time ticked by, the criticisms grew worse until he became obsessed with what he thought was wrong with every little thing they did and what this way of life offered. He had grown dark and unhappy.

It was just about this time that the Mexicans started to build a social hall near us. Ernie spent hours everyday watching them. He would get upset with their methods of construction especially their slowness in laying block. As previously mentioned, he was a masonry contractor by trade.

Every time I saw him, he would work himself up into a rage about how poorly they were constructing the building. I warned him to calm down and not worry about it but to no avail. Ernie was obsessed. He had found a new project it seemed. I was concerned for his health.

I left on a moto adventure for several months and forgot about Ernie. When I returned, I noticed the Mexicans were putting the final touches to the block building. It was a beautiful solid building, very ornate and colonial in style. But I, also, noticed that Ernie was no were to be found.

Finally, after a few days of not seeing Ernie, I went over to the building and I approached Ishmel, the foreman of the construction crew, and asked him if he had seen him. He was a small barrel chested man from Chiapas on the Guatemalan  border. His bronze skin, silky black hair and flat face revealed his Indian descent. He was legendary in our village for his wisdom and capacity for hard work.

Ishmel shook his head and replied. “Oh, it was terrible, Sr. Ken. You remember how Sr. Ernie was so upset with our methods?”

I nodded. I knew from his tone that something bad had happened.

Ishmel continued, “Well, one day Sr. Ernie got really upset with us—more than usual. So upset that he grabbed the trowel from my hand and yelled that he would show us how to lay block properly and began buttering block and laying them.”

Ishmel teared up and continue. “Then it happened. He looked up at me and said he didn’t feel so well and dropped dead, over there.” Ishmel pointed to a little wooden cross behind the building.

MVC-022S

After recovering from my shock I asked Ishmel what he thought about all this. He paused for some time before answering. “Well. Sr. Ernie was upset with us. He wanted us to lay block a better way –the American way. But after seeing what happen to him, I think we’ll just keep laying block the way we’ve always done it—the Mayan way.”

Upcoming Adventure to Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja Norte, Mexico

2011-12-26_15-01-50_380

The first adventure to Bahia de Los Angeles on this season will be March 21 to the 29 th. We’ll be leaving from Playa de Estero. This will be a trip for both motos and cages (4 wheels). We’ll have a boat down there as well for fishing and freediving. Check the Rides page of this blog for more details. This a great trip for newbies. Leave a comment if you’re intested and we’ll check for from. Nos vemos!